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Bandon's Wizard's Hat Rock or Howling Dog? Dual Oregon Coast Landmark

Published 01/06/22 at 11:12 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Bandon's Wizard's Hat Rock or Howling Dog? Dual Oregon Coast Landmark

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(Bandon, Oregon) – Unbeknownst to the majority of visitors, a famed south Oregon coast landmark has a lot more going on than meets the eye. Bandon's Wizard's Hat Rock has a definite identity problem. (Photos courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

What surprises most people is that the iconic spiky rock has another name and look: Howling Dog Rock (or Howling Wolf). It's also known as Komax, based on the native legend surrounding Face Rock.

It literally all depends on your perspective. From which direction you view the rock dictates its shape and name. View it from the north and it looks more like a wizard hat. From the southeast, it takes on an outline more like a howling mutt.

To add more pieces to the puzzle, from other directions it's not really going to look like either.

But wait, there's more. Other nearby rock structures look a bit similar to Wizard's Hat, and they sometimes get mistaken for the famous structure, even mislabeled as such in online Oregon coast photographic collections.

Howling Dog - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

All of this takes place just north and south of Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon, a big Oregon coast attraction in and of itself. Like the geology of this place, which varies from 50 million years old to over 200 million years old, it's an enormous mixed bag of objects in and around the tideline. [How Bandon's Face Rock Was Created A Wild S. Oregon Coast Geologic Tale]

If you ask a local how to find Howling Dog Rock and/or Wizard's Hat Rock, they're going to tell you to look in the exact same spot. This has caused more than a little confusion and incorrect conjecture online.

One of those locals is Bandon photographer Manuela Durson, who has created numerous masterpieces of color and composition of the south Oregon coast. Wizard's Hat is one of her favorite models on the beach – as well as Howling Dog.

She agreed: the oddball thing about this well-known duo is that from other vantage points it's not recognizable as either.

“Yes, you are right, it looks like the Wizards' hat from a north and northeast vantage point, and then you have to walk around it to the other side, south and southeast, and it becomes the Howling Dog,” Durson told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “And yes, in between it looks like neither.”

Photos from Durson's phone

From the north or northeast vantage point, it's pure Harry Potter-like fun. From the direct east as you stroll along the beach, well, it changes, but it looks more like some random spire. Once you get slightly to the southeast, then it becomes Howling Wolf, where the tufted chunk near the top becomes apparent and gives it the head part of the wolf, with the point looking like a snout pointed skyward.

Actual Wizard's Hat Rock

To add even more complexity, the nickname vacillates between Howling Wolf and Howling Dog. Looking up either online will get you the same pic.

Yet looking up Wizard's Hat Rock will get you some different results – and it's understandably hard to tell. But only one rock is officially called that, and it's a tad north of the viewpoint, also known as Gravel Point.

Durson refers to the other one as Faux Wizard, and it's about 200 feet south of the Face Rock viewpoint and cliff. A good way to tell the difference in photos is how real Wizard's Hat has an inward curve near the bottom (on its eastern side), while Faux Wizard gets a bit broader at the bottom from that side, actually sticking out a bit.

“It's a bit of a controversy,” Durson said of Faux Wizard.

Another good way to tell is that real Wizard is too close to its cluster of companion rocks to easily photograph alone, while if you see a wizard hat-looking shape with nothing around it, that's likely Faux Wizard.

The rocky blobs here on this southern Oregon coast hotspot form quite the complex of objects, and it makes things, well, quite complex.

Durson drew this little map for Oregon Coast Beach Connection with her photo

In front of the viewpoint there's a blob of connected rocky islands, and immediately south of that there's another spire. That one is called Little Spire.

That pair of rocky islands contains an arch, and on occasion tides get low enough to allow access. Sometimes, if you look online you'll see shots of what looks like Wizard's Hat through the arch. But don't be fooled, said Durson.

“The photos of Wizard through the sea cave is of the Faux Wizard, not the real one,” she said.

Another telltale sign is that if you're looking at a photo of Wizard's Hat from the south it still looks like a hat instead of a mutt, then you're looking at Faux Wizard. The irony is that Faux Wizard looks a bit more like a hat in some ways than the rock with the name.

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